A cult band and an iconic venue that’s soon to close...how could any music fan resist?
So we travelled deep into the beating heart of Harlow and into in the car park of this humble, welcoming venue as we reflected on it’s loss to the local music community, so that developers can build 69 new flats. Its maybe not the most beautiful place, but what a history, all the bands who played here, all the careers spawned and new dreams created. Bar staff and security are friendly, the sound is great, sightlines are good and there is space to watch standing or, sit as you wish.
Seems appropriate that the Blue Aeroplanes are almost the last act to play here (that honour goes to Eddie and the Hot Rods and venerable locals the Newtown Neurotics). Like the Square itself, they seem the product of another, happier time (this was Trump inauguration day). Their original blend of art rock, pop, poetry and performance influenced bands like Radiohead. They are having a resurgence, with excellent new album Welcome, Stranger (reviewed elsewhere on this site by Keith) getting rave reviews, and a big tour winning them new fans.
Their set started with a fanfare, then straight into standout track from the new LP, Dead Tree! Dead Tree! There are three original members, Gerard the poet/singer, John the drummer, and Wojtek, who doesnt play anything but does energetic dances to every song. It is fair to say these 3 are not as young they used to be, but somehow this makes them more distinguished and measured in their performance, especially Gerard, and even Wojtek...on the 2 past occasions I saw them I found his dances irritating, but now I am totally impressed by his energy.
The other 4 band members all play guitars, and 3 of them sing a song each. ..they seem like good friends having a great time, rocking out at the end of even the most poetic numbers. It is certainly Gerard who holds it all together, with his stage presence and understated vocals. Twice he makes the point that this is not "an exercise in nostalgia", and many of the best songs are from the new album...'Nothing will ever happen in the Future', 'Elvis Festival' and 'Here is the Heart of All Wild Things' were my favourites, standing up to the classics they played like 'Jacket Hangs'.
I found it quite endearing that he carried a big book of lyrics lest he forgot any, and was most impressed by his ‘shades roadie’ who swapped his glasses around for him after a few numbers. They ended the first of two encores with the dedicated to Nobel prize winner Mr Dylan, followed by Poetland, which closes the new album, about where Bob might now live.
A special mention for support Blazing Zoos. A self styled country(not Americana) band from London, they had a great stage presence, with many songs linked to the sports of his native Australia by main man Andrew, and one about a terrible festival they once played. He had a great interaction with the crowd, and much banter with bassist Lara, whose fans included her 7 month old son in the crowd. After their slot Lara kindly introduced me to their charming drummer Gen...who turns out to be from Jesus Jones! He gave me not just an autograph for a friend who is a big fan, but added his own blood from a minor drumming wound to his knuckles. I bet that is worth something on ebay!
Mental note for the future: Remember that folk fans arrive early.
It was the opportunity to see Seth Lakeman tour 'Ballads of the Broken Few' that had me in Norwich, a city I had not visited before. I spent the day taking in the sights and thought I was still in good time, arriving at Norwich Open half an hour before doors open. To my surprise there was already an enormous queue, stretching around a corner and way down the road alongside the venue. Seth Lakeman is a popular performer. Perhaps it was also to do with the free seating. Going solo to gigs has its advantages though and I still found a free seat in the third row.
Seth Lakeman's most recent album is a collaboration with Wildwood Kin, a folk trio from Exeter. That album is a great artistic success in my view. This tour continues the collaboration, with Wildwood Kin also playing a support set.
Wildwood Kin are a trio, however one of the girls was out sick, so sisters, Beth and Emillie Key performed as a duo. It was nice, but I reckon the absence of Meghann Loney was felt. The vocals sounded thin at times, and the sisters were a bit shy and giggly, admitting that Meghann normally does the talking. On the plus side, their songs are strong and I particularly liked the parts where Emillie took up the electric guitar. They finished with a new song, which was especially good and no doubt will sound even better with the band complete.
I have seen Seth Lakeman perform in different set ups over the years (thought he was great solo actually), and his current band is his best yet. The band are Full English collaborator Ben Nicholls on standing bass and concertina, multi instrumentalist Jack Rutter, and super enthusiastic Irish drummer/bodhrán player Cormac Byrne, who played the cajón a lot and hit cymbals with his bare hands! The Wildwood Kin girls joined for the songs off the last album and also provided backing vocals on some of the older work.
It was a very balanced set, encompassing all parts of Seth's solo career. He went right back to 'Freedom fields' for 'Take no Rogues' and included one of his Full English contributions, 'Stand by your Guns'. The Norwich Open is in a former bank building and Seth commented that it felt strange playing 'Poor Man's Heaven' there. 'Portrait of my wife', played acoustically, was a standout moment.
For the 'Ballads of the broken few' songs the band left the stage, and these were performed by Seth and the girls, mostly standing around one microphone. For these songs in particular the theatre setting with the respectfully quiet audience worked well. In my review of the album a while back I already wrote that Seth is to be applauded for continuing to find new ways to present his folk songs. It is a genre in which some musicians could be accused of releasing more of the same with each new album. Seth's hook-up with Wildwood Kin was a very good move.
While the whole show was worthwhile, it was really the last quarter of it that brought things to a higher level. Bruce Springsteen has talked about the "home stretch", when everyone is up on their feet, the biggest hits come out and you clap until your hands are sore. Whilst I would not compare Seth to Bruce, the last six or so songs of his set had that vibe. I suddenly wished I was wearing Wellingtons and standing in a muddy field. 'Lady of the Sea' and 'Kitty Jay' are two extraordinary songs that never fail to make an impact. For 'Lady...' a kind of green glitterball was switched on, creating a rather magical atmosphere. 'Kitty Jay' is a monster of a song. You have to experience it live to know what I am talking about. I get goosebumps every time.
Seth used the word hoedown to describe one of the songs he played on the home stretch. It was also in these songs that Seth the fiddler really got a chance to shine. The audience got up on their feet, which was a relief after being confined to upper-body-chair-dancing. When the show finished my neighbour said, "Beats staying at home watching the telly, innit?" Absolutely.
All in all a fabulous show. Am equally looking forward however to the opportunity to experience this in a field in the summer. Festival bookers, take note!
Tonight is the final night of a pre-album release tour for Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band. Now, as much as I hate to use the word 'supergroup' a quick check on the musical bios of the twelve (yes 12) piece band tells you there's some pretty hefty musical talent on stage. Squeezing such a large band on the Glee Club's stage was always going to be a tight fit and means that support duo Marry Waterson and David A Jaycock have to tiptoe between the various instruments and cables to arrive at their designated positions on stage .
Marry is part of the Waterson-Carthy folk clan (a cousin of Eliza) and is accompanied by David A Jaycock on acoustic guitar. Their set tonight is a mix of the traditional such as 'Some Old Salty' and songs they wrote over the internet ,having previously not met, for their album 'Two Wolves'. The title track calls for an audience “howl along” during the chorus. Marry has a strong, Northern folk voice which is beautifully and sensitively accompanied by David's' acoustic guitar playing, the use of a megaphone and a variety of guitar effect pedals adds flavour and separates them from other folk duos.
A quick head count of The Wayward Band reveals 4 string players, 2 brass (special mention must go to the trombone player who appears to be playing with a broken right hand), 2 percussionists, melodeon , accordion + keyboards, guitar and bass, five of the band also contribute vocals so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's loud but the wall of noise that hits when the full band start the opening track 'Devil in the Woman' still makes you jump.
There are many tracks from Eliza's back catalogue such as 'Great Grey Back', 'Gallant Hussar', 'Stingo' from 1998 'Red Rice' album and ' Good Morning, Mr Walker' from her days with The Kings of Calicutt, all of which are given a tremendous reinvention by infectious, joyful energy of the big band she has assembled here.
'You Know Me' has been written to highlight the positive points about immigration in response to the stance taken by the majority of the mainstream media and features a rap section by MC Dizraeli , who clearly didn't get the dress code memo on white tops as he's wearing a rather fetching blue Hawaiian number. The single 'Fade &Fall (Love Not)' is an epic James Bond theme thing with big, brassy blasts punching holes in it.
Encore 'Willow Tree' is given a New Orleans jazz style makeover and the final track 'Cobbler's Hornpipe' turns into a huge wall of sound with various band members leaping up and down on stage and audience members dancing wherever they can find a space on the floor.
There's something joyous about watching a large band having a blast playing live on stage, and it's the big full band instrumentals which gets the whole place bouncing, musicians on stage jumping and the audience dancing. The joy from the stage is being reflected back from the audience who are all having a great time.
The album 'Big Machine' is due for release at Celtic Connections in February 2017 (there are various options and packages available on Pledge Music now), and a tour post album release was hinted by Eliza at the end of tonight's show.
If you want a fun evening out with a tremendous band I would urge you to add one of these promised shows to your gigs to see in 2017 list.
Alisdair Whyte (from his hospital bed!)
A week may be a long time in politics, but a year seems like a lifetime as a music fan, especially during the bonkers year that 2016 has been. This time last year, us 40 somethings were excitedly anticipating the promised new music and live dates that the recently “reformed” Lush were promising, and here we are now facing into Lush’s last ever gig.
After tragedy split the band first time around, this time it appears that the leaving of original bass player Phil King has something to do with the decision, although he is not named in the bland statement on the band’s website, instead citing the need to return to their families. I suppose we all move on, and with just the 2 girls remaining from the original 4 piece, it was no longer Lush up there on stage.
The biggest disappointment ironically, is the fact that they still sound fantastic ; like 25 years have never happened. Miki’s voice is as haunting as ever, Emma is as stoic as she ever was, and the swirling etherial sound they make feels as relevant today as it did in the 90s.
I’m guessing there wasn’t anyone present tonight who didn’t already know and love the band, and despite the disappointing turn out, the crowd were determined to have a good time and dozens of camera phones were at the ready to record a slice of history.
Undertow and De-Luxe kicked us off and we were already in familiar territory. Never a particularly demonstrative band, the between song chat was sparse yet warm and on occasion funny - Miki informs her daughter was at Brixton Academy watching Savages....”that’s f...... loyalty for you”
The gorgeous Out of Control from this year’s Blind Spot EP was surrounded with familiar favourites Thoughtforms, Etheriel, Undertow, Scarlet, and still one of my favourites songs of all time Sweetness & Light which closed the main set. Slightly moist eyed at the end of that one.
Unusually nowadays, 2 encore slots closed the night, with the sublime Monochrome completing the night. And that was that. The band exited stage left without much ceremony, seemingly emotionless and possibly relieved ?
I guess as time passes, we’ll all feel a greater sense of the occasion, but at the moment the overall emotion is disappointment. With the band for lasting only a year back together, with only giving us 4 news songs in that time, and for raising our expectations during a shitty year for music fans. Ultimately however, we must be grateful for one last chance to see this fantastic band and for turning the clock back 30 years, if only for 1 last night.
William Tyler and band opened tonight’s show. an ex-member of The Silver Jews and Lambchop, William’s solo career is now three album’s old and tonight’s set showcases this year’s ‘Modern Country’ LP. Instrumental tunes that really warmed the crowd up in fine style.
Wilco hit the stage just before 9pm for their two hour set to wind up their latest Euro tour.
‘Normal American Kids’ seemed an apt show opener and the first of six songs from new album ‘Schmilco’ ‘If I Ever was a Child’ and ‘Cry All Day’ totalled a three new songs opener which, with the very effective forest like stage set that turned 3D with the lighting, had the audience’s full attention from the off.
This was a career spanning show, six songs also from ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’ as well as visits to numerous other album’s including ‘Box Full of Letters’ from ‘AM’. Hard to nominate standout songs because the set was just superb start to finish but, classics like,' Via Chicago' , 'Bull Black Nova', 'Impossible Germany' and 'Misunderstood' were really special.
Surely still one of the best bands in the world out there for live shows, you are never short changed. Long may they roll!
Normal American Kids
If I Ever Was a Child
Cry All Day
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Art of Almost
Someone to Lose
Pot Kettle Black
Bull Black Nova
We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)
Box Full of Letters
Heavy Metal Drummer
I'm the Man Who Loves You
The Late Greats
Random Name Generator
A Shot in the Arm